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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 4

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 4

Revelation 4:1. ἠνεῳγμένη, Elz.; so also א, Tisch. [W. and H.]. The form ἀνεῳγμ. (A), approved by Lack., depends upon a clerical error occasioned by the α in θύρα, as in 19, 11, where even A has the form ἠνεῳγμ.; cf., besides, Revelation 11:19, Revelation 20:12. Winer, p. 70.

λέγων. So, already, Griesb., instead of the correction λέγουσα (Elz.).

Revelation 4:2. The καὶ before εὐθέως. (Elz.) is, according to A, א, 2, 4, 8, al., Syr., Vulg., to be deleted (Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]); cf., already, Griesb.: yet the μετὰ ταῦτα here, as in Revelation 1:9, is to be combined with δεῖ γενέσθαι, not (Lach.) with εὐθέως.

ἐπὶ τὸν θρόνον καθήμενος. So, already, Beng., according to A, א, 2, 4, 6, 7, al., Vulg., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. Incorrectly, Elz.: ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου.

In this often-recurring phrase, ἐπὶ is found with the accus., Revelation 4:4, Revelation 11:16, Revelation 17:3, Revelation 19:11; also Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:4 (Elz., dat.), according to A, C, א (Beng., Lach., Tisch.). With the Genesis 4:10; Genesis 5:1; Genesis 5:7; also Revelation 6:16, Elz., Lach.

On the other hand, Tisch.: dat., according to 4, 6, 9, א, al.). With the dat., Revelation 4:9 (A, א, Lach.

But Elz., Tisch. [W. and H.]: gen.), Revelation 5:13 ( א [W. and H.]: gen.), Revelation 7:10, Revelation 19:4, Revelation 21:5, where, in the Elz., the gen. throughout stands improperly.

Revelation 4:3. The ἦν before ὅμοιος (Elz.) is, according to the testimonies, and with Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.], to be deleted; cf. Revelation 1:14-15.

Revelation 4:4. Elz.: θρόνοι εἴκοσι καὶ τέσσαρες· καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θρόνους εἱδον τοὺς εἴκοσι καὶ τέσσαρας πρεσβ. Certainly false, in this reading, is: first, the (twofold) καί before τεσσ.; secondly, the explanation εἴδον beside the art. τούς. It is doubtful whether with Lach., Tisch. IX., θρόνους εἴκοσι τέσσερας must be read; for, in A, this accus. may have been inserted because of what follows. Beng., Griesb., Tisch. [W. and H.], etc., have the nominative. It is, further, doubtful whether the number should be combined the second time with θρόνους or with πρεσβυτ. The former is preferred by Lach., Tisch. IX., according to A, 17, 18, 19 ( κ. ἐπὶ τ. εἴκ. τέσσ. θρον. πρεσβ.); the latter by Tisch. [W. and H.] ( τ. ἐπὶ τ. θρ. τοὺς εἴκ. τεσσ. πρεσβ.; cf. 13, 26, 27, Areth.). It is, however, very possible that the reading of 2, 4, 8, 9, 11, al., according to which the number without τοὺς stands between τ. θρόνους and πρεσβυτ., and accordingly could be taken with both nouns, is original. The reading, therefore, which is exegetically the more suitable, is εἴκ. τεσσ. πρεσβ. א has only καὶ πρεσβ., without ἐπὶ τ. θρ., and without the repetition of the number,—possibly the original reading.

The ἐν before ἱματίοις (Elz., Tisch.) is probably false; it is wanting in A, Vulg., Lach. [W. and H.]. The ἔσχον (Elz.) before ἐπὶ τ. κεφ. is doubtless an interpretation.

Revelation 4:7. Instead of ὡς ἅνθρωπος (Elz., Beng.), ὡς ἀνθρώπου (A, Vulg., al., Treg., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]) is to be read, unless possibly ἀνθρώπου alone (2, 4, 6, al., Aeth., Ar., Andr., Areth., Matth.) is to be regarded the original reading. א: ὡς ὅμοιον ἀνθρώπῳ.

Instead of πετωμένῳ (Elz.), write here and in Revelation 8:13, Revelation 14:6, Revelation 19:17, πετομ. (A, א, 9, 14, 16, 19, Andr., Areth., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]). Cf. the scholium in Wetst.: πέταμαι οὐδεὶς τῶν ῥητόρων εἰπεν, ἀλλὰ πέτομαι.

Revelation 4:8. ἓν καθʼ ἑαυτὸ εἷχον. So Elz. But Beng. and Griesb. already write correctly: ἓν καθʼ ἓν αὐτῶν ἔχον (A, B, 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, al., Lach.). The ἔχων in A, which is approved here by Tisch. [W. and H.], occurs also in Revelation 4:7 in A,—not received there by Tisch., 1854,—in both places apparently as a clerical error. א: ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν εἰχον.

Revelation 4:11. Instead of the simple κὐριε (Elz., Griesb.), read, according to A, B, 2, 3, al., Vulg.: κύριος καὶ θεὸς ἡμῶν (Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]); א has both.

ἧσαν. So A, א, 2, 3, 4, al. pl., Griesb., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]. A mere modification is the εἰσι in Elz. Also, the isolated variation οὐκ ἦσαν, which Ew. favors, seems to be a not inapt expedient; since, by the inner combination of the οὐκ ἦσαν and ἐκτίσθ. (“when they were not, they were created,” Ew.), the difficulty of the ἦσαν in the correct text is avoided.

That the words καὶ ἐκτίσθησαυ are lacking in A, is only an oversight, as the eye of the transcriber wandered from the ἡσαν directly to the final syllable of ἐκτίσθ

ησαν.

In chapter 4 (and 5), the real divine foundation for the entire succeeding prophetic Apoc. (up to Revelation 22:5) is presented in a plastic manner. For the living God himself, whose throne in eternal glory is portrayed in ch. 4, determines what is to happen ( δεῖ γεν., cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:19). Thus from him proceeds all revelation spoken by the mouth of a prophet,(1643) and that, too, through the mediation of Christ.(1644) Beng., appropriately: “In fact, this book (of John) describes not only what occurs on earth in good and evil, but also how things originate from the kingdom of light, and partly from the kingdom of darkness, and how they again extend thither.”(1645) But as in Revelation 1:12 sqq., the appearance of Christ was of such a nature as to stand in a living relation to the discourses of the Lord to his Church, following in chs. 2 and 3, so also the appearance of the Lord in ch. 4 already makes us know in advance that it treats of impending judgment towards enemies, and a showing of grace to believers. The holy and omnipotent majesty beheld of Him who was, and is, and is to come, and the standing of the “elders” about his throne,—already points, even apart from definite individual features, to the essential contents of the revelation which is to be expected. Cf. Beng.; also Hengstenb., who, however, inaccurately and erroneously says, “What is to occur afterwards is shown John. Accordingly, in Revelation 4:2 sqq., we are to expect not a description of that which always is, but only a symbolical foreshadowing of the future.”

If now we compare with the description, ch. 4, rabbinical representations, such as More Nevoch, II. Revelation 6 : “God does nothing unless he have considered it in his family above,” and Schir. Haschirim R., fol. 93: “God does nothing unless he have first consulted concerning it with his family above,”(1646)—we dare not overlook the essential distinction that the Johannean view is nothing but a development of O. and N. T. fundamental truths, while the rabbins have only a corruption of them.(1647) For “the family above,” which, according to the rabbins, participates in the determining of God’s counsels, in John has only to adore and praise the decree together with God’s works; and the visions beheld by John, in which future things are portrayed to him while in the Spirit, are in no respect the heavenly prelude of earthly events stated by the rabbins.(1648) Ill-founded is the remark of Heinrichs: “In every chapter, the poet does nothing but testify that he has beheld the theatre whence the Messiah is to return to earth as the lofty and majestic” …


Verse 1

Revelation 4:1. ΄ετὰ τοῦτα εἰδον. The formula marks the entrance of a new vision, and that, too, a greater or more important one,(1649) while the formula καὶ εἶδον introduces the various individual features represented in the course of a larger main picture.(1650) The formula καὶ εἶδον, Revelation 13:1 and Revelation 17:3, stands at the beginning of an entirely new important division, and is therefore regular, because in both passages the opening of a new scene is indicated by the entire preceding verse, which in a measure prevents there the ΄ετὰ ταῦτα. But since by the ΄ετὰ ταῦτα the vision now following is distinguished from what is completed in Revelation 3:22,—the ταῦτα referring back to the entire vision in Revelation 1:10 to Revelation 3:22,—it is in no way indicated that between Revelation 3:22 and Revelation 4:1 there is a space in which John was not “in the Spirit,” but in his ordinary consciousness, and perhaps penned the seven epistles. Thus Beng.: “John always comprehended one part after another in sight and hearing, and immediately wrote it.” Cf. also Aret., Grot., Calov., Hengstenb.; and, against the latter, Ebrard’s correct protest. Even De Wette, who nevertheless correctly acknowledges that John is already (Revelation 4:1) “in Spirit,” viz., from Revelation 1:10, fixes the committing of the seven epistles to writing between Revelation 3:22 and Revelation 4:1. But nowhere in the course of the entire revelation (Revelation 1:10 to Revelation 22:16) is any temporary return from the ecstatic condition to ordinary consciousness conceivable, and therefore a partial noting-down is nowhere possible. The εἶδον, Revelation 4:1, undoubtedly indicates that the “being in Spirit” beginning with Revelation 1:10 continues unbroken;(1651) and from Revelation 4:1 to the close of the entire revelation, an interruption of the ecstatic consciousness can nowhere be admitted, since the vision which follows always is developed from that which precedes.(1652) There is only one “being in Spirit,”(1653) in which John beheld the entire revelation with all its changing, yet coherent, scenes.

θύρα ἠνεῳγ΄. ἐν τ. οὐρανῳ. The opening of heaven(1654) is explained by means of a door, from the fact neither that heaven is regarded a firm arch,(1655) nor that John is to enter heaven,(1656) nor that heaven appears as a temple;(1657) but that heaven is the house,(1658) the palace of God (in which he is enthroned, Psalms 11:4; Psalms 18:7; Psalms 29:9).(1659)

φωνὴ, κ. τ. λ. Not the voice of Christ,(1660) who indeed had spoken (chs. 2., 3.)(1661) after the first voice,(1662) but the voice first heard, which already (Revelation 1:10) is no further defined, and here also cannot be further designated than as it is identical with the former.

λέγων. The construction “according to sense”(1663) is especially easy with the λεγων(1664) introducing the direct address.(1665)

ἀναβά. With respect to the form, cf. Acts 12:7; Mark 15:30 (var.); Ephesians 5:17. Winer, p. 76. John ascending to heaven and to the things there to be seen, through the door opened on this account, which he beheld in Revelation 4:1, is immediately present in spirit(1666) at the significant representation of that which is henceforth to happen.(1667) Klief., in violation of the context, asserts that a more elevated station is meant, from which John could look as well through the opened door into heaven, as also to a greater distance upon earth.

καὶ δεἰξώ, κ. τ. λ. Thus the heavenly voice speaks, although the person to whom it belongs cannot be more definitely known,—as in later visions, where, however, the same angel does not everywhere appear as interpreter, and “show,”—because the voice sounds forth in the name of the personal God himself, who, nevertheless, is efficacious beneath the one who shows (Revelation 1:1), and causes also the prophet to be in the Spirit (cf. Revelation 4:2).

δεῖ γεν. Cf. Revelation 1:1.

μετὰ ταῦτα, as Revelation 1:19.


Verse 2

Revelation 4:2. εὐθέως ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύαατι. The asyndeton emphasizes the significance of the εὐθέως. After John has heard the voice, Revelation 4:1, he is immediately—and that too because of the voice(1668)—“in the Spirit,” and thereby made capable of ascending into heaven, and beholding the objects there presented. Although in Revelation 4:1, John is already ἐν πνεύματι, i.e., in such a condition that he beholds the opened door, and can hear the heavenly voice, yet the mode of presentation, Revelation 4:2, which, considered in itself alone, can designate the entire recent entrance of the ecstatic condition, has its justification in that an entirely new elevation of prophetic ecstasy belongs thereto, whereby John can ascend in spirit to heaven, and behold what is there shown him. Hence De Wette and Ebrard properly compare with this, Ezekiel 11:5. Even Hengstenb.(1669) has to acknowledge, that, while Revelation 4:2 designates “the complete entrance into the state of ecstasy,” yet Revelation 4:1 already is to be regarded a “preparation” to this condition.

Züll., incorrectly, just as Revelation 1:10 : “I was there [in heaven] by ecstasy.”

In rapid succession directly follows the description of that which is presented to the view of the one drawn into heaven: καὶ ἰδοὺ, θρόνος ἔκειτο, κ. τ. λ. To this entire description, there is a parallel in the Pirke, R. Elieser,(1670) which is very instructive, because it shows how differently, with many similar features, the O. T. types(1671) appear in a N. T. prophet, and the rabbins:(1672) “Four bands of ministering angels praise God. The first is of Michael, on the right; the second, of Gabriel, on the left; the third, of Uriel, before him; the fourth, of Raphael, behind him. But the shekinah of God is in the centre, and he himself is seated on a lofty, elevated throne; and his seat is high, suspended in the air. The splendor of his magnificence is like Chasmal (Ezekiel 1:4). Upon his head is placed a crown, and upon his brow a diadem with Schemhamphorasch. His eyes go through the whole earth; a part of them is fire, but a part hail. On his right is life; on his left, death; and a fiery sceptre is in his hand. Before him is stretched out a veil ( פרכת), and seven angels who were created from the beginning minister before him within the veil. But that which is called פרגוד, and the footstool of his feet, are like fire and lightning, and shine beneath the throne of his glory like sapphire and fire. About his throne are righteousness and judgment. The place of his throne is that of the seven clouds surrounding him with glory; and the wheel of his chariot, and the cherub, and the living ones give to him glory. His throne is like sapphire, and at his feet are four living ones, each of whom has four faces, and as many wings. When God speaks from the east, this is done between the two cherubim with the face of a man; when from the south, then between the two cherubim with the face of a lion; when from the west, then between the two cherubim with the face of an ox; when from the north, then between the two cherubim with the face of an eagle.

The living ones also stand beside the throne of glory, yet they know not the place of his glory. The living ones stand also in fear and trembling, in horror and agitation, and from this agitation of their faces, a river of fire flows forth before them. Of the two seraphim, one stands at God’s right hand, another at his left. Each has six wings; with two they cover their face, lest they may see the face of the shekinah; with two they cover their feet, lest the feet may see the shekinah, and immediately be able to find his footstep; but with two they fly, dread and sanctify his great name. One cries out, and another replies, saying, etc.

And the living ones stand beside his glory, yet they know not the place of his glory, but in every place where his glory is, they cry and say, Blessed be the glory of God in its place.”

θρόνος-g0- ἔκειτο-g0-. The expression κεῖσθαι indicates neither an especial breadth of the throne,(1673) nor that it rests upon the cherubim,(1674) because the word here, as in Jeremiah 24:1, LXX.; John 2:6; John 19:29, and in the classics,(1675) expresses the simple idea of “being placed.”(1676)

καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν θρόνον καθή΄ενος. The mode of representation itself, according to which the reference here is to “one sitting,” and in Revelation 4:3,(1677) the one mentioned in Revelation 4:2 is described simply as “the sitting one,” shows that John does not mention this sitting one more definitely, because he wishes here to do nothing more than with perfect fidelity to report the vision which he has had.(1678) In Revelation 1:12 sqq., also, he has not expressly mentioned the manifestation of Christ. Utterly preposterous is the declaration of Heinr.: “The name seems to have been omitted only by carelessness in writing, which is especially conspicuous in this entire chapter.” Just as impertinent is the allusion to the Jewish dread of uttering the name of God.(1679) Suitable in itself to John would be the explanation of Herder: “To name him, the soul has no image, language no word;”(1680) but even this is not here applicable, as John in general, even where he definitely mentions the vision here described, expressly calls God the enthroned one.(1681) These passages show at the same time that the enthroned one is regarded(1682) not as the Triune God,(1683) but as God the Father, in distinction from the Son,(1684) and the Spirit.(1685) So Alcas., Stern, Grot., Wetst., Vitr., Beng., Hengstenb., etc.


Verse 3

Revelation 4:3. ὁράσει. Dative of manner:(1686) “in appearance,” cf. ὄψις, κ. τ. λ., Revelation 1:16, and the ὡς ὅρασις with the following gen. of the object compared in the LXX. Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:26 sqq., Revelation 8:2.

λίθῳ ἰάσπιδι καὶ σαρδίω. The σάρδιος(1687) is, as the Heb. name indicates, a red,(1688) particularly flesh-colored gem, our carnelian. Ebrard understands by it the dazzling ruby.

More difficult is the determination of the ἴασπις. The LXX. thus render the Heb. יָֽשְׁפֶה;(1689) yet in this passage, as well as also in Revelation 21:11, where the ἴασπις is designated as λίθος τιμιώτατος, and κρυσταλλίζων, it is scarcely possible to think of the not very costly and not transparent, sometimes greenish, sometimes reddish gem, which the Romans called, as we also call it, jasper. Cf. Pliny:(1690) “A gem, which, although surpassed by many, yet retains the glory of antiquity.” Nevertheless, the most of the expositors adhere firmly to the simple expression. Andr., Areth., N. de Lyra, Aretius, etc., think of the green jasper, and understand it, just as the emerald mentioned immediately afterwards, as a symbol of divine consolation, since green is agreeable to the eye.(1691) A symbolical reference has been discovered even to baptism,(1692) and the judgment of the flood;(1693) for the red sardius denotes the final judgment in fire. Others think of the red jasper, as they either regard it, like the sardius, a symbol of the divine anger,(1694) or, without any such significance,(1695) as only a description of the dazzling appearance of God. Beng., Stern., Hengstenb.,(1696) presuppose a white, crystal-clear species of jasper, and find in this color the image of the divine holiness and unclouded glory. This sense of the brightness of color is indicated partly by emblematic descriptions, as Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 8:2; Daniel 7:9 sq.; and partly by parallels, as Revelation 1:14 sqq., Revelation 10:1.(1697) The brilliancy of light and fire is, in Ezekiel; the appearance of God. In Daniel, also, the bright white raiment and the dazzling white hair of the Ancient of days belong with the fire of his throne; for both the holy glory and the consuming anger of God(1698) must be represented. Upon the same view depends the description of the Lord,(1699) and of the angel, who in Revelation 10:1 appears invested with divine attributes, while, e.g., Revelation 4:4, Revelation 7:9, the heavenly beings, because they have attained to a holiness and glory like that of God, appear indeed in white garments, yet not also with the fiery signs of divine judgment, but with crowns and palms. If now the red appearance of the σάρδιος recalls the ardor of the divine wrathful judgment, we expect the ἴασπις to represent the bright light, which elsewhere is displayed along with the divine glimmering of fire, in a different way. But now the very bright or crystal-clear jasper, stated by Beng. and Hengstenb., does not actually exist. Hence we must believe, either that John imagined an ideal kind of jasper,(1700) or, as is more probable, because of Revelation 21:11, that by the ἴασπις he wished to designate the diamond.(1701) The LXX., in whose vocabulary John was instructed, do not have the term ἀδάμας.(1702) The Heb. שָׁמִיר, which probably designates the diamond, is not accurately translated by the LXX. in Zechariah 7:12; Ezekiel 3:9.(1703) It is, besides, to be observed, that the LXX. render not only יָֽשְׂפֵה, but also כַדְכֹּד, Isaiah 54:12,(1704) by ἴασπις. But if the description (Revelation 4:3) depends upon Ezekiel 8:2 and similar passages, it yet in no way follows that here, as there,(1705) the brilliancy of the two gems is to be regarded as different parts of the form of God,—the bright light of the jasper above, the red appearance of the sardius beneath:(1706) rather, the double brilliancy of the two stones shining through one another(1707) is to be regarded a profound designation of the essential unity of the holiness and righteousness of God. The free treatment of the ancient prophetic view expresses, as to the subject itself portrayed, a deepening of the thought; while the beauty of the likeness gains rather than loses, as the divine appearance to John maintains a pictorial unity. The entire form of the enthroned one appears in the twofold, yet united, brilliancy of the jasper and the sardius, just as the entire form of the Lord was in appearance like intense light of the sun.(1708)

καὶ ἶρις κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου ὅ΄οιος ὀράσει σ΄αραγδίνῳ. Concerning ὅ΄οιος as an adjective of two terminations, cf. Winer, p. 66.

Against the wording ( κυκλ. τ. θρόνου) is the idea of Vitr., that the ἰρις surrounded the head of the one enthroned like a crown;(1709) Beng. and Hengstenb. unnaturally and unfairly regard the ἷρις as surrounding the throne in breadth horizontally.

Hengstenb. infers, besides, from the formula κυκλ. τ. θρ. recurring from Revelation 4:4, that also the thrones of the elders appear within the ἱρις; but it is the only natural and, in a pictorial respect, conceivable way, to regard the ἶρις as surrounding the shining form upon the throne on high.(1710)

Without any basis is the controversy as to whether the ἶρις were a “rainbow,”(1711) or a “bow;”(1712) nor does it in any way correspond to the poetical character of the description, if, in order to explain the rainbow, mention is made of God’s appearing, Psalms 18:12; Psalms 104:3, surrounded by darkness of rain and thick clouds,(1713) or that the green color here named is only the principal color,(1714) as the hues of the jasper and sardius are regarded as combined with the brilliancy of the emerald, attributed to the ἰρις, in order to bring out the three chief colors of one common rainbow. What John saw about the throne had the form of a rainbow,—hence he says ἰρις,—although not the seven colors of an actual rainbow are represented, but only the emerald green. Yet this ἷρις in itself, and the emerald appearance especially,(1715) are not without symbolical significance, possibly in a mere optical contrast with the blending brilliancy of the jasper and sardius;(1716) but in symmetry with the symbolical significance of this twofold brilliancy, the mild emerald-green of the bow, which is already in itself the clear sign of divine grace,(1717) notes the gentle and quickening nature of this grace.(1718) But it follows neither from the gen., nor from the pragmatism of this passage, that the grace recurring after the divine punishments(1719) is described; it would be more correctly interpreted with Grot.: “God in his judgments is always mindful of his covenant.” Yet we dare not precipitately limit the description here presented, in its particular connections, to the judgments of God in their relation to divine grace which are to be beheld only later: it is sufficient that here where the eternal and personal foundation of all that follows is portrayed, the holy glory and righteousness of God appear in most intimate union with his immutable and kind grace, so that thus the entire impending development of the kingdom of God and the world unto its last end, as it is determined by that wonderful, indivisible nature of the holy, just, and gracious God, as well in its course as in its goal, must correspond to this threefold glory of the living God. Consequently this fundamental vision contains every thing that serves the terror of enemies, and the consolation of friends, of the one enthroned.


Verse 4

Revelation 4:4. The twenty-four elders whom John sees sitting(1720) on the twenty-four thrones standing about the throne of God(1721) are, in like manner, the heavenly representatives of the entire people of God; as, in Isaiah 24:23, the elders are regarded the earthly heads and representatives of the entire Church.(1722) For, that these twenty-four elders are human, and not a “selection of the entire host of heaven,”(1723) nor angels,(1724) is decided by their designation, that which is ascribed to them (white robes and crowns), and the entire mode of their employment.(1725) They are neither the “bishops” or “prefects of the entire church,”(1726) nor priests,(1727) nor “the entire assembly of ministers of the word,”(1728) nor “all true rectors and faithful pastors of the N. T. Church,”(1729) nor Christian martyrs;(1730) but simply the representatives of the entire congregation of all believers, to whom, as to these elders, belong the holiness and glory indicated by the white robes,(1731) and the royal dominion by the thrones and crowns.(1732) The number twenty-four is not derived from the orders of priests, 1 Corinthians 16,(1733) for the question here is in no respect concerning priests; and still less(1734) is it to be regarded as a type of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, for the idea that this church had just twenty-four elders is without any foundation. All those expositors are in the right way who, proceeding from the number twelve, attempt to indicate a doubling of it. As now, undoubtedly, the simple as well as the doubled twelve(1735) has particular reference to the twelve tribes of the O. T. Church, the twenty-four elders cannot be twelve apostles and twelve martyrs;(1736) but also the explanation that from each of the twelve tribes two representatives are regarded as standing, one on the right, the other on the left of the throne of God,(1737) is of itself unimportant and arbitrary. It is possible(1738) only to regard the twofold twelve, either the representatives of the O. and the N. T. Church,(1739) or the representatives of the Church gathered not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.(1740) Against the latter, Hengstenb. and Ebrard incorrectly say that the mode of view in the Apoc. is not conformable to that of the entire N. T.; for also in Revelation 7:9 sqq., those saved from the heathen are distinguished from those from the twelve tribes (Revelation 7:4 sqq.), and that, too, without detriment to the view according to which the heathen are added to Israel. Yet the former explanation of the twelve representatives of the churches of the O. and N. T. is to be preferred, because this in itself, and according to intimations like Revelation 15:3 (the song of Moses and the Lamb), is more immediate, and because, by this mode of statement, the twenty-four elders appearing in personal definitiveness can the more appropriately represent the O. and N. T. Churches. To wit, not “the twelve tribes,” as De Wette inconsistently explains, but the twelve personal heads of the Church of the O. T., composed of twelve tribes, i.e., the twelve patriarchs, are comprised in thought together with the twelve apostles, the N. T. antitypes to the patriarchs(1741) [See Note XLII., p. 202.] The objections made against the holiness of the twelve patriarchs(1742) are in no way pertinent,—as they could also be urged against the apostles,—because the patriarchs come into consideration not according to their own conduct or individual worth, but as the favored chiefs of the tribes of the O. T. people.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLII. Revelation 4:4. εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους

Gebhardt, however (p. 48), urges against this view advocated by Düsterdieck, “the fact, that, on the gates of the New Jerusalem, the names of the twelve tribes—the names of the patriarchs—are written; and, on its foundations, the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12; Revelation 21:14); but neither on the gates, nor on the foundation, do we find the two associated. It is entirely foreign to the thoughts of the seer, to conceive of the two side by side with each other. They are the same, but one as the type, the other the fulfilment. The song of Moses and the Lamb (Revelation 15:3), which is quoted in favor of this interpretation, is neither a double song, nor is it sung by O. and N. T. believers; it is one, and ascends from the lips of conquerors in the Christian life.” He argues that the elders are not concrete realities, “but, as the living creatures are a symbolical representation of the animated creation of God in general, according to its ideal, so are the elders a symbolical representation of the people of God, according to their ideal, or, in other words, of redeemed humanity.” Luthardt: “Not possibly the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles, or, in general, the representatives of the Church; for they are distinguished from believers, Revelation 5:10 (according to the correct reading), Revelation 7:9 sqq., 14, Revelation 11:16 sqq.; and the glorified as yet wear no crowns, but are expecting only the time of dominion (Revelation 2:10 to Revelation 6:9); but it is the heavenly council, composed of representatives of the people of God in heaven.”


Verse 5

Revelation 4:5. The throne of God corresponds in its appearance to the majesty of the king sitting thereon. As in Psalms 29.,(1743) the regal(1744) omnipotence of God is made visible in the violence of the thunder-storm, so John here uses the same image in order to describe the unlimited omnipotence of the enthroned one, particularly as exercised in judgment. The throne itself, out of which proceeded “the lightnings, thunderings, and voices,” appears filled with this sign of the Divine omnipotence. The φωναί which are here distinguished from the βρονταί—so that passages as Revelation 6:1, Revelation 10:3, Revelation 14:2,(1745) must not be here compared,—have(1746) to be regarded as the roar which in a storm accompanies the thunder and lightning.(1747) The misunderstandings of the description depend upon the crudeness and arbitrariness of the exposition. So in N. de Lyra:(1748) “The coruscation of miracles, and declaration of rewards for good and the terror of punishments for evil deeds.” Solely on account of the ἐκπορεύονται,”(1749) Aretius understood by the ἀστραπ., φων., and βροντ., even, the Holy Ghost. De Wette(1750) discerns in the lightning, etc., figures of God’s manifestations of power and life in nature, which are to be distinguished, as “critical and powerful revelations of God,” from the seven lamps as “his calm and perpetual influences;” while in Revelation 4:6-8, “nature itself, or the realm of the living,” and finally in Revelation 4:9-11, “the harmony of creation with redeemed humanity, and thus God in his living efficiency and reality,” are brought into consideration. But this interpretation is in more than one respect without foundation. The lightning, voices, and thunder are, according to the O. T. view, on which the present description depends,(1751) not figures of the revelation of God in nature as distinct from another revelation, but of the unlimited power of God, especially as judging;(1752) only we dare not, with Grot., understand the ἀστρ. and βροντ. of general threats, but the φων. of particular afflictions. The throne whence the lightning, etc., proceeds, agrees with that whose form appears to be not only like jasper, but also like a sardine stone.

καῖ ἑπτὰ λαμπάδες πυρὸς, κ. τ. λ. The authentic explanation immediately follows: αἵ εἰσι τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ. Cf., besides, Revelation 1:4. The pragmatic significance of the Spirit of God in this connection is not that the Spirit of God “is the principle of the psychical(1753) and spiritual life, and that through him the inner influence of God on nature and the human world occurs;”(1754) for the idea of the λαμπάδες πυρός does not suit the explanation of the closely connected first half of the verse. But Hengstenb. also, who very arbitrarily combines the “seven” of the Spirit with the “three” of the lightning, voices, and thunder, into a “ten,” and herein finds indicated a connection of the Spirit with that lightning, etc., improperly thinks only of an operation of the Spirit, “bringing corruption, punishing, and annihilating.” If also the idea of the work of the Spirit in judging(1755) dare not be left out of consideration, partly because of what precedes, and partly because of the expression, πυρός; on the one hand, the expression λαμπάδες, and, on the other, the parallel Revelation 5:6 ( ὀφθαλμοί), indicate that the Spirit is to be regarded chiefly as illuminating, seeing, searching all things,(1756) and just on that account everywhere(1757) active in his holy judgments. Essentially the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne of God indicate nothing else than the eyes of the Lord “as a flame of fire” in Revelation 1:14.(1758)


Verse 6

Revelation 4:6. ὡς θάλασσα ὑαλίνη, ὁμοία κρυστάλλῳ. The ὡς—which(1759) belongs to the entire idea, and not chiefly to the ὑαλίνη(1760)—stands here just as in Revelation 8:8. What John further beheld before the throne of God appeared as a sea of glass like crystal. This is regarded as signifying baptism,(1761) the Holy Scriptures,(1762) repentance,(1763) the present transitory world,(1764) etc.,—all purely arbitrary. Without ground, further, is the allusion to the “brazen sea” in the temple,(1765) or to the bright inlaid floor, having, therefore, the appearance of a sea.(1766) It is in general a conception not justified by the text, to regard the “sea of glass “the basis of the throne, as C. a Lap., Vitr., Eichh., Heinr., Herder, De Wette, etc., presuppose, who from this same idea reach interpretations that are very different. With an appeal to Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:26, De Wette(1767) regards “the sea of glass” in our passage, as well as also in Revelation 15:2, as a designation of “the atmosphere,” an explanation to which, in its pure naturalness, Exodus and Ezekiel do not apply,—where, however, in reality the pure ether is the natural substratum for the idea of the standing or enthronement of God in heavenly glory,—while in this passage the sea of glass is not beneath, but before, the throne of God, and the entire presentation is altogether foreign to “the atmosphere.” On the other hand, Vitr., Herder, etc., with a reference to Psalms 89:15, and similar passages, interpret the sea of glass as the basis of righteousness and grace, whereon the throne of God is founded.(1768) Following Beng., Hengstenb. has understood the sea of glass, since it appears in Revelation 15:2 mingled with fire, as the “product of the seven lamps of fire,” since and because of the expression “sea” referring to Psalms 36:7, as a designation of “the great and wonderful works of God, of his just and holy ways, of his acts of righteousness that have become manifest.” But already the parallelism of Revelation 5:6, where these seven lamps appear as seven eyes, in itself renders this artificial interpretation impossible.

Aret., Grot., and Ebrard proceed upon the fact that the sea, viz., as stormy and irregularly heaving (Revelation 13:1), represents the mass of the nations in their ungodly state; and then, that the sea of glass, clear as crystal, and therefore firm as well as pure, designates “the creature in its pure relation to the Creator.”(1769) But this interpretation is wrecked on Revelation 15:2. According to that passage,(1770) the sea, whose complete, heavenly purity is marked by the double designation, ὑαλ. and ὁμ. κρυστ.,(1771) is to be regarded identical with the stream of the water of life, which(1772) proceeds from the throne of God.(1773) The point thus designated belongs in fact essentially to the perfection of the view of the enthroned God; and according to the living relation in which the vision, ch. 4 [and 5], stands to all that follows, it is to be expected, that, as the succeeding judgments appear as the work of the holy and just omnipotence of the heavenly King here described, so also a definite point of the present fundamental description corresponds to the final glorious and blessed completion of the kingdom of God. Since in the presence of God there is fulness of joy,(1774) since God is the Blessed One,(1775) since before him and from him issues the river of eternal life, he himself, and communion with him, is the blessed goal for the development of his kingdom, and he himself is the leader thereto. [See Note XLIII., p. 203.] καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου τέσσαρα ζῶα, κ. τ. λ. The four beings(1776) appear not as supporting the throne, for ἐν μέσῳ τ. θρ. is by no means “under the throne;”(1777) also not as stated by Eichh., Ew. 1., and Hengstenb., that the four ζῶα are stationed with the back under the throne, but with the upper part projecting therefrom so raised above the same that they could appear as being “round about” the throne—an idea which because of its absolute deformity ought not to have been forced upon John. In like manner impossible is Ebrard’s opinion, that(1778) the four ζῶα are in the midst of the (transparent!) throne, but that at the same time they had moved themselves with the rapidity of lightning from the same, so that they appeared also around about the throne. Incorrect also is Vitr., who makes of ἐν μέσ. and κυκλ. a strange hendiadys: “In the midst of the semicircular area which was before the throne.” According to the wording of the text, the position of the four beings is not to be regarded else than as is most natural in connection with their fourfold number, viz., one on each side of the throne, and besides each in the midst of its respective side.(1779) They stand so free as to be able to move;(1780) and because they have manifestly turned with their faces towards the throne, John can see that they are “full of eyes before and behind.”(1781) There is no occasion whatever for the conjecture that the words καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων might have belonged in the text.(1782)

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIII. Revelation 4:6. θάλασσα ὑαλίνη

Alford objects to our author’s identification of the “sea of glass” with the “river of water of life;” for “the whole vision there [Revelation 22:1] is quite distinct from this, and each one has its own propriety in detail. To identify the two is to confound them, nor does ch. Revelation 15:2 at all justify this interpretation. There, as here, it is the purity, calmness, and majesty of God’s rule which are signified by the figure.” Luthardt, on the other hand, in substantial agreement with Düst.: “The fulness of the divine life (cf. Revelation 22:1), which is nothing but peace and calm, in contrast with the stormy disquietude of the life of the world (Revelation 13:1; Daniel 7:2).”

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIV. Revelation 4:6-8. τέσσερα ζῷα

Cf. Cremer (Lexicon): “Properly, a living creature, which also occurs elsewhere also in profane Greek, where ζῶον, a post-Homeric word, generally signifies living creature, and only in special instances a beast; θηρίον = animal, as embracing all living beings, must be retained in the Revelation, where four ζῶα are represented as being between God’s throne and those of the elders which surround it, the description given of which (Revelation 4:6-8) resembles that of the הַיוֹת in Ezekiel 1:5 sqq.; the cherubim in Ezekiel 10 (cf. Psalms 18:1; Psalms 99:1; Psalms 80:2; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15). They are named living creatures here and in Ezekiel 1, on account of the life which is their main feature. They are usually the signs and tokens of majesty, of the sublime majesty of God, both in his covenant relation, and in his relation to the world (for the latter, see Psalms 99:1); and therefore it is that they are assigned so prominent a place, though no active part in the final scenes of sacred history (Revelation 6:1-7). The appearance of four represents the concentration of all created life in this world, the original abode of which, Paradise, when life had fallen to sin and death, was given over to the cherubim. They do not, like the angels, fulfil the purposes of God in relation to men; they are distinct from the angels (Revelation 5:11). We are thus led to conclude that they materially represent the ideal pattern of the true relation of creation to its God.” Oehler (O. T. Theology, p. 260): “It is the cherubim, as Schultz well expresses it, ‘which at one and the same time proclaim and veil his presence.’ The lion and the bull are, as is well known, symbols of power and strength; man and the eagle are symbols of wisdom and omniscience; the latter attribute is expressed also in the later form of the symbol by the multitude of eyes. The continual mobility of the ζῶα (Revelation 4:8) signifies the never-resting quickness of the Divine operations; this is probably symbolized also by the wheels in Ezekiel 1. The number four is the signature of all-sidedness (towards the four quarters of heaven). Thus Jehovah is acknowledged as the God who rules the world on all sides in power, wisdom, and omniscience. Instead of natural powers working unconsciously, is placed the all-embracing, conscious activity of the living God.”


Verse 7

Revelation 4:7. While, in Ezekiel,(1783) the forms of the four cherubim(1784) bear in wonderful combination the fourfold faces of the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle, John with more distinct clearness has so seen the four beings that in each of them only a part of that fourfold form is expressed. In this, also, he is distinguished from Ezekiel, that he represents his “four beings,” not each with four but with six wings, as the seraphim in Isaiah 6.; yet, on the other hand, John agrees with Ezekiel, that in him the wings, as well as the whole body, appear full of eyes (Revelation 4:8).

The second being is like a μόσχος, i.e., not a “calf” in distinction from a grown ox, but, as is already required in an aesthetic respect, the ox. The LXX. have μόσχος, Ezekiel 1:10, for שׁור;(1785) also Ezek. 21:37;(1786), Leviticus 22:23. But they render thus also the words פָר,(1787) עֵגֶל(1788) and בָקָר(1789) By μόσχος, therefore, only some animal of that class is designated; the more precise determination is given by the context.

The third ζῶον has τὸ πρόσωπον(1790) ἀνθρώπου. In Ezekiel the chief form of the cherubim is human; this has been adopted also by Vitr. and Hengstenb. for the Apoc.(1791) On the contrary, Beng. infers from the words ἔχ. τ. πρόσωπον, κ. τ. λ.: “So it did not have in other respects the form of a man.” Ebrard is right in being contented with not knowing more than is said in the text. In the third being, however, the human face is characteristic; just as in the eagle, to which the fourth being is like, not so much the form in itself, as the flying, is significant, and therefore marked.

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIV. Revelation 4:6-8. τέσσερα ζῷα

Cf. Cremer (Lexicon): “Properly, a living creature, which also occurs elsewhere also in profane Greek, where ζῶον, a post-Homeric word, generally signifies living creature, and only in special instances a beast; θηρίον = animal, as embracing all living beings, must be retained in the Revelation, where four ζῶα are represented as being between God’s throne and those of the elders which surround it, the description given of which (Revelation 4:6-8) resembles that of the הַיוֹת in Ezekiel 1:5 sqq.; the cherubim in Ezekiel 10 (cf. Psalms 18:1; Psalms 99:1; Psalms 80:2; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15). They are named living creatures here and in Ezekiel 1, on account of the life which is their main feature. They are usually the signs and tokens of majesty, of the sublime majesty of God, both in his covenant relation, and in his relation to the world (for the latter, see Psalms 99:1); and therefore it is that they are assigned so prominent a place, though no active part in the final scenes of sacred history (Revelation 6:1-7). The appearance of four represents the concentration of all created life in this world, the original abode of which, Paradise, when life had fallen to sin and death, was given over to the cherubim. They do not, like the angels, fulfil the purposes of God in relation to men; they are distinct from the angels (Revelation 5:11). We are thus led to conclude that they materially represent the ideal pattern of the true relation of creation to its God.” Oehler (O. T. Theology, p. 260): “It is the cherubim, as Schultz well expresses it, ‘which at one and the same time proclaim and veil his presence.’ The lion and the bull are, as is well known, symbols of power and strength; man and the eagle are symbols of wisdom and omniscience; the latter attribute is expressed also in the later form of the symbol by the multitude of eyes. The continual mobility of the ζῶα (Revelation 4:8) signifies the never-resting quickness of the Divine operations; this is probably symbolized also by the wheels in Ezekiel 1. The number four is the signature of all-sidedness (towards the four quarters of heaven). Thus Jehovah is acknowledged as the God who rules the world on all sides in power, wisdom, and omniscience. Instead of natural powers working unconsciously, is placed the all-embracing, conscious activity of the living God.”


Verse 8

Revelation 4:8. The four beings, having each six wings,(1792) are all around and within full of eyes. Concerning the composition ἓν καθʼ. ἓν, cf. Mark 14:19; John 8:9; Romans 12:15; Winer, p. 234. Concerning the distributive ἀνά, cf. John 2:6; Winer, p. 372.

The κυκλόθεν belongs not to what precedes,(1793) but with ἔσωθεν to γέ΄ουσιν. Yet the κυκλόθεν is not equivalent to the ἔ΄προσθεν, Revelation 4:6, so that the ἔσωθεν corresponds to the ὅπισθεν;(1794) but rather the κυκλόθεν properly comprises already both of those statements, while only with reference to the wings mentioned is it still expressly remarked that “within,” i e., on the inner side of the wings, under them—not only round about the entire outside of the body ( κυκλ.)—all is full of eyes.(1795) It results also from this determination of κυκλ. and ἔσωθεν, that the declaration γε΄. ὀφθαλ΄. is repeated, because this is to be extended particularly(1796) to the wings.(1797) At the same time the adding of what follows, καὶ ἀνάπαυσιν

ἐρχό΄ενος, reveals the meaning first of the fulness of eyes, and then of the four beings in general. Ceaselessly, day and night, they exclaim, “Holy,” etc.

The masc. λέγοντες, in the same loose wav as Revelation 4:1.

The ἡ΄. κ. νυκτ. can in no way suggest that at the throne of God there is no change of day and night, and still less dare the explanation be made: “Though there be on earth, here or there, day or night.”(1798)

The uninterrupted hymn of praise of the four beings sounds like that of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3; but since, instead of the close found there ( πλήρης πᾶσα γῆς δόξης αὑτοῦ), it is said here ἠν καὶ καὶ ἐρχό΄ενος, there is found(1799) in the praise of these four beings a particular factor, which already in Revelation 1:8 sounds forth like a keynote in a judgment of God which is highly significant to the whole. The thrice holy Lord God, at the same time, is also the Eternal One who is to come. These words of praise from the mouth of the four beings agree perfectly with the manifestation of the Enthroned One,(1800) as this itself agrees with his own words;(1801) and in all the living divine, foundation of the entire Apocalyptic prophecy is indicated, because God “comes”—in a personal way, as the prophet says—as surely as he is the Holy, Almighty, Eternal One, endowed with complete living energy.

Only now can the question be answered, as to what these beings are, and what their special characteristics signify. Undoubtedly these four ζῶα(1802) are not actual beasts who serve only to support the throne of God, as in Persian and Indian sculptures massive forms of beasts are seen supporting a throne;(1803) for ζῶον is not θηρίον,(1804) and concerning the four beings as supporting the throne, the text does not say a word.

Almost all the explanations of older times depend upon mere surmises, as, that the four beings are meant to designate: the Four Evangelists, and that, too, so that, according to Augustine,(1805) the lion represents Matthew, the man Mark, the ox Luke, and the eagle John;(1806) the four cardinal virtues;(1807) the four mysteries of faith, viz., Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, ascension;(1808) the four patriarchal churches;(1809) the four apostles or apostolic men, who were then at Jerusalem as standard-bearers of Christ’s camp;(1810) all the doctors of the Church,(1811) etc. It is further a perversion to regard the four beings as angels, from whom they are expressly distinguished in Revelation 5:8; Revelation 5:11, Revelation 7:11.(1812) According to their form, they are essentially identical with the cherubim of the O. T.; so they have also their symbolical meaning. The question is whether they represent powers of God employed in the creation,(1813) or creation itself.(1814) The former interpretation is carried to such extent by Ebrard, that the lion is regarded as designating the consuming and destroying, the bullock the nourishing, man the thinking and caring, and the eagle, which soars victoriously above all, the preserving and rejuvenating power in nature. This is indeed ingenious, but is forced. It is in itself peculiar, and entirely unbiblical, to form the powers of God into definite symbolical beings, and the idea is entirely inadmissible, to regard powers so formed as proclaiming the praise of God: but, on the other hand, it is perfectly natural for the works to proclaim the praise of the Creator,(1815) and for these, especially the entire living creation, to be represented by definite, concrete forms. The creatures at the basis of the O. T. cherubic forms most simply offer themselves as such representatives of the entire living creation. The correct point of view is already stated in the rabbinical sentence:(1816) “There are four holding the chief place in the world,—among creatures, man; among birds, the eagle; among cattle, the ox; among beasts, the lion.” That these four are intended to represent the entire living creation, is indicated by the significant number four itself;(1817) and to object against it, that besides the fish, etc., are not represented, is pointless.(1818) Entirely irrelevant, however, to the proper meaning of the symbol, is the succession of lion, ox, etc., which John, after remodelling in general the Ezekiel cherubic forms, unintentionally changed; the idea also is arbitrary, that the four beings in John, just as in Ezekiel, must have had altogether human bodies, since man is exalted above other creatures.(1819) This allusion is introduced here without sufficient reason, as the subject has to do simply with the entirety of the living creation as such. Incorrect, besides, is the interpretation of the eyes, wherewith the four beings are covered, by saying that the entire living creation is “spiritualized,”(1820) which follows at least from Revelation 5:6. The context itself shows, on the other hand, that the eyes are to be regarded as signs of the constant wakefulness day and night, belonging to the ceaseless praise of God.(1821) Finally, the six wings which John has derived for his beings from the six seraphim (Isaiah 6), we cannot well understand here otherwise than as there. They designate not the collective significance of the four beings,(1822) but serve as a figurative representation of the unconditionally dependent and ministerial relation in which the creature stands, and is recognized as standing, to its Creator. Thus Bengel:(1823) “So that with two they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two flew: whereby then the three chief virtues were indicated, viz., reverence or respect, as they do not boldly look; humility, as they hide themselves before that brilliancy; and obedience, to execute commands.”

The essential idea delineated in the images of the ζῶα (cherubim) may be expressed in words as Psalms 103:22 : “All the works of God (in all places),”—as they, at least with respect to earthly living creatures, are represented in the beings, and that, too, four beings,—are to “praise God in all places of his dominion.” For, that he, as unconditioned Lord of his creatures, is honored with all humility and obedience, is seen in that they hide themselves, and are ready to serve his will. Yet there is also placed in the mouth of the representatives of the creatures an express ascription of praise to the holy, almighty Lord, and that, too, as the innumerable, ever-wakeful eyes show, one that is perpetual (Revelation 4:8). [See Note XLIV., p. 203.]

NOTES BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR

XLIV. Revelation 4:6-8. τέσσερα ζῷα

Cf. Cremer (Lexicon): “Properly, a living creature, which also occurs elsewhere also in profane Greek, where ζῶον, a post-Homeric word, generally signifies living creature, and only in special instances a beast; θηρίον = animal, as embracing all living beings, must be retained in the Revelation, where four ζῶα are represented as being between God’s throne and those of the elders which surround it, the description given of which (Revelation 4:6-8) resembles that of the הַיוֹת in Ezekiel 1:5 sqq.; the cherubim in Ezekiel 10 (cf. Psalms 18:1; Psalms 99:1; Psalms 80:2; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15). They are named living creatures here and in Ezekiel 1, on account of the life which is their main feature. They are usually the signs and tokens of majesty, of the sublime majesty of God, both in his covenant relation, and in his relation to the world (for the latter, see Psalms 99:1); and therefore it is that they are assigned so prominent a place, though no active part in the final scenes of sacred history (Revelation 6:1-7). The appearance of four represents the concentration of all created life in this world, the original abode of which, Paradise, when life had fallen to sin and death, was given over to the cherubim. They do not, like the angels, fulfil the purposes of God in relation to men; they are distinct from the angels (Revelation 5:11). We are thus led to conclude that they materially represent the ideal pattern of the true relation of creation to its God.” Oehler (O. T. Theology, p. 260): “It is the cherubim, as Schultz well expresses it, ‘which at one and the same time proclaim and veil his presence.’ The lion and the bull are, as is well known, symbols of power and strength; man and the eagle are symbols of wisdom and omniscience; the latter attribute is expressed also in the later form of the symbol by the multitude of eyes. The continual mobility of the ζῶα (Revelation 4:8) signifies the never-resting quickness of the Divine operations; this is probably symbolized also by the wheels in Ezekiel 1. The number four is the signature of all-sidedness (towards the four quarters of heaven). Thus Jehovah is acknowledged as the God who rules the world on all sides in power, wisdom, and omniscience. Instead of natural powers working unconsciously, is placed the all-embracing, conscious activity of the living God.”


Verse 9

Revelation 4:9. ὅταν δώσουσι. The fut., instead of the regular sub.,(1825) does not present a conception that is strictly future,(1826) but has, like the Heb. imperfect, the force of a frequentative: “when, as often as.”(1827)

δόξαν καὶ τι΄ὴν. Viz., the worshipful acknowledgment of the glory and honor(1828) belonging to the Lord;(1829) while by καὶ εὐχαριστίαν is designated immediately, and without metonymy, the thanksgiving(1830) rendered by the creature.

τῶ καθη΄ένῳ

αἰώνων. So God calls the enthroned God very similarly as the four beasts praise him, and in the same respect. Hence, also on cemore in Revelation 4:10, the same designation of God, comprising the reason for the praise, and the ground of all hope and prophecy.

On Revelation 4:10, cf. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 19:4. The casting-down of the crowns is, together with the falling down and worshipping, the sign of humiliation before the King and Lord, in whose presence no creature whatever has any glory or honor of its own.(1831)


Verses 9-11

Revelation 4:9-11. The ascription of praise to God by the representatives of the creation, viz., the four beasts, is joined by that of the twenty-four elders, the representatives of redeemed humanity;(1824) yet here the praise of the elders (Revelation 4:11) refers not to redemption itself,—which first occurs in Revelation 5:9 sq.,—but to the power and glory of God revealed in creation, so that the words of the elders stand in beautiful harmony with the praise of the four beings, as well as with the significance of the entire vision; of course not without the relation expressly indicated in Revelation 4:8, and lying at the basis, that Almighty God, who has made the beginning of all things, will also bring them to a completion.


Verse 11

Revelation 4:11. Not without significance, the elders who, as representatives of the redeemed, stand in a still closer relation to their Lord and God than the four beings, address the Enthroned One: κυρ. καὶ θεὸς ἡμῶν.(1832)

ἄξιος εἰ λαβεἰυ. Cf. Revelation 5:12. That God not only when he is worshipped, but also when he exterminates his enemies, receives glory,(1833) does not belong here.

τὴν δοξ., κ. τ. λ., the elders say, because in replying they look back in a certain respect to Revelation 4:8.(1834)

καὶ τὴν δένα΄ιν. While the representatives of even creation are right in offering thanks (Revelation 4:8), especially suitable in the mouth of the elders, who although naturally also belonging to creation, yet with a certain objectivity regard the work of creation ( ὅτι σὺ ἔκτισας, κ. τ. λ.), is the thankful acknowledgment of the power of the Creator revealed therein.(1835)

καὶ ὁιὰ τὸ θέλη΄ά σου ἦσαν. The Vulg., correctly: “On account of thy will.” Luther, incorrectly: “Through thy will.” Concerning διὰ with the accus. to designate the ground, not the means, cf. John 6:57; Winer, p. 372.

In regard to ἦσαν, the reference may be considered impossible: “In thy disposition from eternity, before they were created;”(1836) and just as little dare the ἐκτίσθησαν be applied to regeneration through Christ,(1837) if the ἦσαν be correctly referred to the creation. Bengel’s explanation of the ἦσαν: “All things were, from the creation to the time of this ascription of praise, and still henceforth. Hereby the preservation of all created things is praised,” is also artificial; while his explanation of ἐκτίσθησαν: “Since thou hast created all things, they remain as long as thou wilt have them,” is utterly incorrect. The ἦσαν is taken mostly(1838) as synonymous with ἐκτίσθησχν; but ἦσαν is not equivalent to ἐγένοντο or ἐγενήθησαν.(1839) On the contrary, after the divine work of creation is mentioned ( ἔκτισας), the idea recurs to the same point with vivid clearness: as all things were, which before were not. The καὶ ἐκτίσθησαν is, then, not synonymous with the ἦσαν, but presents expressly the precise fact upon which the ἦσαν depends: “they were created.” Thus the lauded work of the Creator ( σὺ ἔκτισας) is made manifest even to the creatures by the idea in its two modifications of the ἦσαν and ἐκτίσθησαν.

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 4:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/revelation-4.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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